Road to cashless society


THE eBelia programme, an initiative under Budget 2021 aimed at helping to relieve the financial burden of Malaysian youths aged 18 to 20 years and full-time students, is now open for registration until July 22, 2021.

Two million youths are eligible to participate in this programme, which also aims to promote cashless spending among Malaysians in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy (MyDigital) blueprint.

Eligible applicants can claim RM150 in the form of e-wallet credit from one of the participating service providers – Boost, BigPay, ShopeePay or Touch ‘n Go. Users are expected to enjoy additional incentives offered by their chosen e-wallet service provider.

Thus far, over 1.75 million youths nationwide have redeemed RM262.5mil in eBelia credit since it was launched on June 1. The claim period is from June 1 to July 22, 2021 and the credit can be spent until July 31 this year.

The eBelia programme’s goal of promoting cashless spending will have a positive impact on our digital economy in the long run.

The most immediate reason for moving into a cashless society is the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has made “contactless” transactions a norm. Scientists at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness found that the Covid-19 virus may remain infectious for weeks on banknotes. This makes high-touch surfaces like physical currency a critical transmission risk that should be avoided.

The pandemic has also accelerated the shift to online shopping and e-commerce, which generally involve cashless payment options. Malaysia is home to a plethora of e-wallet and digital banking pioneers that have paved the way for improved digital financial opportunities and products.

The “UOB ASEAN Consumer Sentiment Study” found that contactless payments have become the preferred payment options for Malaysians in light of the pandemic. QR payments and Internet banking were the most popular followed by mobile wallets and debit or credit cards.

This acceleration in digital payment adoption is also due in part to our robust financial technology (fintech) ecosystem. Latest rankings by the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities in the Internet sector, placed Malaysia at 34th spot, ahead of other emerging economies like India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Suffice to say, our flourishing fintech ecosystem is a key driver for the nation’s digital economy now.

The trend of going cashless has seemingly captured Malaysian society across all socioeconomic backgrounds. Even direct government aid is being primarily done on a cashless basis, where applications and payments for Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat and special Prihatin grants are made electronically or online.

Cashless transactions also leaves an e-trail, which makes it hard for counterfeiters or criminals to launder money.

As we move towards a more cashless future, we will have higher transactional security, better coordination, enhanced communication on anti-corruption initiatives and greater ease of sharing information.

To that end, it will help the government to be more efficient in public service delivery especially in curbing leakages, fraud and corruption. Online payments reduce direct contact points between citizens and public officials, thus reducing opportunities for public officials to engage in corrupt activities.

The older generation may need some time to adjust to this change, but younger digital natives who have grown up with this technology should be encouraged to set the stage for a fully cashless society in the near future.

SHAFIKAH ARIANNA MOKHTAR

Kuala Lumpur

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